BOISE, Idaho, January 10, 2012 —Teens aren’t exactly known to be eager and motivated to learn complex scientific concepts, but for one group of teenagers in Caldwell, Idaho, they can’t get enough.
The Bots of Prey FIRST Robotics/4-H Team, a group of eleven teens sharing a common interest in robotics, is ready to devour any and all information they can find about projectile ranges, torque, coefficient of friction, and human/machine interaction. Time is of the essence as they have a mere six weeks to design, build, and program a robot for competition. They will compete in the regional competition in Salt Lake City in March and have hopes of making it to nationals.
January 7 was the international kickoff for the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition. 60,000 high school students in 2300 teams from around the world gathered in front of a live broadcast explaining what this year’s challenge is. From kickoff day students have six weeks to design, build, and program a robot to accomplish the stated tasks.
At the kickoff, FIRST teams were shown the new “Rebound Rumble” game playing field and received a Kit of Parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components, but no instructions. Working with adult mentors, students design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge.
Once these young inventors create a robot, their teams participate in competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.
This year’s challenge, Rebound Rumble, involves building a robot that can pick up basketballs and launch them into nets. The team scores points for each basket made. In addition to scoring baskets, teams will score additional points if they can work together with another robot (or two!) to balance on a bridge.
Teams now have six weeks to completion. Throughout the next 42 days, they’ll experiment with various designs, build prototypes to study the options for accomplishing their goal, and finally construct a robot. It’ll be a whirlwind six weeks as teams work on average of 25 hours per week to complete the challenge.
According to Randy Steiner, one of the Bots of Prey’s mentors and a parent of a FIRST alumnus, “Students benefit by seeing real world challenges that are real challenges and not made up thought-exercises. They need to use critical problem solving skills, design processes, and teamwork to create the end solution. It also exposes them to engineering and sciences and applied math in ways they would not see in a class room. One of our former coaches always said, ‘They will get more engineering and problem solving in six weeks than they will in four years in high school.’”
Randy’s son, Zach, is now serving as a team mentor as well. He participated in a FIRST team during all four years of high school.
“As a FIRST parent,” Randy added, “I have seen both of my boys think more holistically about problems, consider all aspects of the design and the application, and really show leadership and inclusion for other team members.”
The Bots of Prey team has an additional challenge: they’re a rookie team with very little experience under their belts. Only one member of the team has participated in the challenge before, but the enthusiasm of the team will (hopefully) make up for it.
If excitement and passion play a part in winning the competition, then Caldwell’s Bot of Prey is a shoo-in.
*Bots of Prey is sponsored by JCPenney’s, NASA, and Canyon-Owhee School Service Agency. The team is looking for additional sponsors; if interested please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is just a mom who decided to take a bike ride. On the longest road in the world. Some people say she’s exceptionally brave. Others say she’s outrageously foolish. She doesn’t think she’s either. She’s just a mom who wanted an adventure and time with her kids. Her most recent adventure was cycling from Alaska to Argentina, a journey she documented at www.familyonbikes.org
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